March 18, 2018

The Rundown: Texans vs. Titans

It wasn’t pretty but the Houston Texans clinched their playoff spot for the second season in a row with a 24-10 win over the Tennessee Titans. The game felt as if in slow motion at times and like the Texans were struggling, but the game was in hand the entire day. The offense did enough to get by and the defense created opportunity after opportunity to make it an easy day for the Texans.

The Texans were depleted with injuries with five players ruled out for the game, so there were plenty of new faces on the field that look good for the future of the Texans.


The Rundown

Reggie White

– When you hear the name Reggie White it is pretty certain you are talking about one of the top defensive players in NFL history. Throw in J.J. Watt who joined White in some rare air.

To be exact, Watt batted 2 more passes to push his season total to 15 and 15.5 sacks for the season. Just think about that. Amazing if you ask us.

– Tim Dobbins was knocked out late with a shoulder injury but he had Chris Johnson’s number the entire day. He was bringing the game to him and keeping him bottled up in the back field. He also had a fumble recovery and an interception.  It was good to see production like that from the inside linebacker position. Dobbins has been an unsung hero for the Texans this season and against the Titans.

– The Texans defense racked up 6 total sacks and forced 6 turnovers against the Titans. They gave the Titans all they wanted, but the majority of the forced turnovers were on hustle plays. Antonio Smith ran down Jake Locker to strip him on a scramble, then add in Quintin Demps putting a hard hit on a wide receiver and Darryl Sharpton dove for the interception. These are the types of plays you like seeing the defense make.  They are making their own opportunities on the field.

– Antonio Smith looks fresh and looks like his old self from the 2011 season. He had a sack, a caused fumble and a fumble recovery that should have resulted in a touchdown (early whistle). More than that was the fact Smith was causing issues on the defensive front collapsing the pocket and getting holding calls on the Titans offensive lineman. The defense is so much better when Smith is creating on the front, and him being able to get going could help take some pressure off of Watt.

– Matt Schaub had a quiet two touchdown day and completed 21 passes on 35 attempts.  He was also only hit ONCE the entire afternoon. Schaub has brought a calming effect to the offense and has made this team so much better with his leadership. He is only 15-2 since week 6 of last season for a .882 winning percentage, not bad for all the criticism he has gotten since coming to Houston.

– The inside linebacker had a productive day and probably their best day for filling up the stat sheet.

–  Donnie Jones has been a great off season signing.  He averaged 48.8 yards a punt (10) and dropped 5 of them inside the 20. Jones has been better than what anyone could have expected from the veteran. Jones is averaging 46.3 yards a punt for the season and has put over 32% of his punts inside the 20.

– The offense looked mortal today and had a solid day despite getting off to a great start with the Lestar Jean 54 yard touchdown catch to open the game. Arian Foster had 14 carries for 38 yards, Andre Johnson had 5 receptions for 56 yards and Owen Daniels chipped in with 3 catches for 43 yards. It looked like the offense was out of sync and not what we have seen the past two weeks. Maybe the long layoff had something to do with it, but most importantly they played turnover free football. (+6 in the turnover ratio)


The Youth Movement

-There has been plenty of calling from Texans fans to see more of the young players and due to injuries Whitney Mercilus, Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael got their shot to impress on the Texans defense. Throw in Lestar Jean and Brandon Brooks showed up on the offensive side of the ball, the Texans were able to get their young crop of players some playing time.

– Whitney Mercilus had a productive day with 2 sacks and a fumble recovery, but it is easy to see how raw Mercilus is with his game. He will have to learn on the run with Brooks Reed out for some time, but he is closing in on the rookie sack record and with one more sack he will tie the franchise lead with 6 (Brooks Reed). Even with the limited amount of snaps, Mercilus is still finding a way to the quarterback.

– Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael, the two young corners who have been buried in the depth chart, got their chance with Johnathan Joseph and Alan Ball inactive for the game. Then throw in the foot injury to Brice McCain, they combined for 11 total tackles and three pass deflections. They showed their youth with giving up completions, but both showed enough to warrant discussion for more playing time. Harris led the team in tackles and looks to be the slot corner replacement for McCain if he is out for any amount of time with his foot.

– Lestar Jean showed why he was called “Big Play” in college at Florida Atlantic when he caught his first career touchdown catch with a 54 yard catch and run. He has been worked into the lineup more and more in three and four wide receiver sets, and it appears that Gary Kubiak is trying to make an effort to get him involved with the offense moving forward.

– We will have to watch the game more, but Brandon Brooks got into the right guard position and looked like he was fairing well in the run game. Brooks coming in and spelling Ben Jones looks like it could be the end of the road for veteran Antoine Caldwell, who is nursing a bad hamstring.


You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.


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